Controversial statues of Confederate figures from around the country will go on display at a new exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in November 2023.
The “Monuments” exhibition will feature 15 statues and monuments recently pulled down during in Southern states, and will be accompanied by contemporary art and pieces commissioned specifically for the display that will reconsider the Confederate tributes in the context of Black history and modern perspectives of the now widely dismissed Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War. Among the curators will be the prominent American artist Kara Walker, whose work often revolves around racial and gender-based stereotypes in U.S. history.
Four of the statues will be on loan from the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, including the statute of the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, which stood atop a tall plinth overlooking the Virginia capital’s Monument Avenue from 1907 to 2020, when it was defaced and toppled by Black Lives Matters protesters. The city of Richmond donated the Confederate statues to the museum after they were dismantled. The Davis statue will be displayed as it is at its current home at The Valentine, the museum of Richmond history: still lying down and splattered with pink paint.
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“I think anything we can do to put this whole concept of the ‘Lost Cause’ in a proper perspective is a good thing,” Monroe Harris, chair of the Black History Museum, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “This will create conversations that need to be had in some areas. We live in Richmond, ground zero for a lot of the things related to the Civil War. But in other regions of the country, their exposure and understanding of it is somewhat limited. This exhibition can help create some conversations and create clarity and understanding. Hopefully, we can come to some reconciliation about this issue as well.”
Other cities with Confederate statues and monuments in the MOCA exhibit will include Charlottesville, Virginia; Baltimore; and Houston.
There have been calls for statues of prominent Confederate figures since 2015, but support for their coming down swelled nationwide in 2020, after widespread protests against police shootings of Blacks.
Many of the Confederate statues standing in the South today were built not in the post-Civil War years but in the 1890s and 1910s, the most visible crest of a wave of racist and segregationist sentiment and Jim Crow legislation that had hideous effects in the U.S. and beyond for the rest of the 20th century. One of the primary purposes of putting the statues of up was promoting the myth of the Lost Cause, which recast the Confederates as the real heroes of the war and claimed that slavery was not the reason for secession.
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